This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up or thumbs down on the issues from the past week.
Paleontologists with the North Dakota Geological Survey have found a creative way to continue their educational outreach during the coronavirus pandemic. The team of three paleontologists -- who also are parents -- launched an online video program to teach students about past life on earth. As schools remain closed for an unknown length of time, it’s a great educational option for families at home. The videos are likely to attract a national audience. The Geological Survey already has attracted participants from across the country for its popular North Dakota fossil digs.
North Dakota officials are cautioning the public about “widespread phishing and social engineering attacks (that) malicious actors are using to exploit the coronavirus pandemic.” The state’s chief information security officer says the global pandemic has created an opportunity for criminals to take advantage of people. Some phishing emails appear to come from legitimate sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. In addition to the cyber threats, some states have already seen scams involving automatic credit or bank charges for a coronavirus test kit. Victims are told the charge can only be refunded by “verifying” the account information and mailing list. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem has cautioned residents to be on the lookout for such scams. “A healthy dose of skepticism will help stop the scam artists in their tracks,” he says.
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School closures are not only affecting the education of local children, but also access to food for many families. Bismarck and Mandan school districts quickly reacted this week and set up food distribution sites. Both cities have pickup sites offering to-go bags of lunch and breakfast. Area nonprofits also are helping to fill needs in the community while at the same time taking new social distancing measures and coping with fewer volunteers.
Local economic impacts of the pandemic are already stacking up. Many businesses have closed or reduced hours to prevent the spread of the virus. Major events that bring people to our community, like the Class B basketball tournament or the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference, have been canceled or postponed. These tough decisions were the right steps to take to slow the spread of the virus. But they will have a toll on the community, and the impacts are just starting to be noticed.
A baker at Dan’s Supermarket in Bismarck had some fun with the rush to stockpile supplies and designed a cake that looks like a roll of toilet paper. She jokes that unlike the real thing, there is no limit on how many cakes one can purchase. Moments of levity like this are going to be important as we all cope with impacts of this pandemic.
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